With the AH-1Z Viper now serving across the entire Marine Corps, one question has emerged: What will they do with their older AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters? The older Cobras, which entered service in the 1980s, still have some serious bite.
According to a report from TheDrive.com, the AH-1W Cobras will be hitting the export market. This is a path well traveled by many used aircraft from the United States. After World War II, North American P-51 Mustangs, Vought F4U Corsairs, and Republic P-47 Thunderbolts found new life in other countries as hand-me-down planes. In later years, Israel would receive surplus A-4 and F-4 planes as replacements during and after the Yom Kippur War.
A Douglas A-4E Skyhawk lands on an aircraft carrier while en route to Israel during the Yom Kippur War to replace losses. (US Navy photo)
Why would a country think about buying used warplanes or helicopters? After all, combat planes don't exactly have an easy life, even in peacetime. Fighter pilots, for instance, are often involved in dissimilar air combat training – a fancy way of saying they practice dogfighting. Continued exposure to extreme G-forces has an effect on a plane. If they've seen combat, that adds a whole new layer of wear. Some of these planes may have been damaged while others have flown a lot of combat sorties — why buy damaged goods?
A Marine from Heavy Mobile Helicopter Squadron 169, speaks to the copilot of an AH-1 Cobra while refueling at a Forward Operating Base in Iraq April 11 while in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Operation Iraqi Freedom is the multinational coalition effort to liberate the Iraqi people, eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and end the regime of Saddam Hussein. (USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Jonathan P. Sotelo)
You guessed it — used combat planes and helicopters come a whole lot cheaper than those ready to fly away from the factory. And let's face it, a number of countries, like those who got second-hand Mustangs, Corsairs, and Thunderbolts, are on a tight budget. In this case, the AH-1Ws are still quite capable, with a three-barrel 20mm gun, gun pods, and the ability to fire a wide variety of modern missiles.
So, who's on the short list to buy these Cobras? A number of American allies have used the Cobra in the past, according to MilitaryFactory.com. These allies include Japan, Israel, Jordan, Thailand, Taiwan, Bahrain, and South Korea. They could very well get these helicopters, but it might be prudent to get a ChopperFax report on them first.